Money is on the way to help save the only grocery store in an isolated Washington state community that has been particularly strained by the pandemic-related closure of the US-Canada border.
SEATTLE — Money is on the way to help save the only grocery store in an isolated Washington state community that has been particularly strained by the pandemic-related closure of the US-Canada border.
About 1,300 people live in the US territory at Point Roberts, at the tip of a peninsula south of Vancouver, British Columbia. It is part of Washington, but isolated from the rest of the state.
Before the pandemic residents often traveled to Canada to drive 25 miles (40 km) through southern British Columbia to shop, work or reach the US mainland. Canadian buyers and tourists, meanwhile, have been a major source of revenue for Point’s business.
But since March 2020, the border has been closed for non-essential travel. Point Roberts International Marketplace, the community’s only grocery store, has lost many of its customers.
Gov. Jay Inslee announced Tuesday that Washington would give $100,000 from its strategic reserves to support the market, which faced a July 15 closure.
Inslee said the money would help keep the market afloat until the border was reopened, preserve 10 of its jobs, and a food security crisis. The market may also add up to three employees if business picks up.
The market’s owner, Ali Heaton, said he was disappointed with the border closures but was grateful for the governor’s support, which he said would help “stop the bleeding” at his stores. Other businesses and residents in Point Roberts need help, she said.
“As a business owner, I never wanted a hand-out; I just want my customers back,” Heaton said.
He told the Northwest News Network last week that the market is losing $30,000 a month without Canadian clients and second home owners who have not returned to Point Roberts. Heaton said the most recent extension of the border closure – until July 21 – had pushed him to the brink.
Leaders at Point Roberts are calling for an exemption to reopen the border for their community, so far coming up with a plan to offer surplus vaccines to Canadian visitors. They insist they do not pose a public health threat to Canadians as about 85% of the community’s residents have been fully vaccinated.
Inslee has repeatedly asked Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with no luck that residents of Point Roberts should be allowed to re-enter the US mainland directly at Blaine via southern British Columbia. Trudeau acknowledged that border closures have caused hardship to some communities, but cautioned against a hasty reopening.